Dechen Dolkar

In a move aimed at ensuring ample availability of non-basmati white rice in the domestic market and curbing the rise in prices, the Government of India (GoI) has taken a decisive step by imposing a ban on the export of non-basmati white rice, effective immediately.

The Directorate of General of Foreign Trade issued a notification on Thursday, announcing the prohibition on the export of non-basmati rice.

This amendment alters the export policy for non-basmati white rice, whether semi-milled or wholly-milled, polished or glazed, from a previously unrestricted status to a prohibited category.

Nevertheless, the notification does provide some exceptions to the ban. The GoI will grant permission for export on a case-by-case basis to countries facing food security concerns, upon their specific request.

Additionally, any shipment of non-basmati rice that have already commenced loading onto vessels, with shipping bills filed and vessels berthed or anchored at Indian ports, and whose rotation numbers were allocated prior to this notification, will be allowed for export.

Furthermore, consignments of non-basmati rice handed over to customs before the notification will also be permitted for export until August 31 of this year.

The Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Yeshey Penjor, reassured the public that the ban’s impact would be limited as the country predominantly consumes basmati rice. However, he acknowledged that certain low-income and rural populations depending on non-basmati rice may be affected.

In response to the notification received only yesterday, the government intends to explore alternative food supply options and subsidise basmati white rice to mitigate any potential hardships.

“Should the need arise, we will consider requesting GoI to consider exporting non-basmati rice to Bhutan as a last resort,” stated Lyonpo.

Reacting to the development, the chief executive officer of Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL), Dorji Tashi, said that FCBL currently holds a stock of 1,150MT of rice.

The FCBL’s records from 2022 indicate that 15 percent of the total rice import quantity comes through FCBL, while the remaining 85 percent is imported by private sectors. These private entities are reported to possess around 7,000MT of rice, indicating sufficient reserves in the country.

The National Food and Nutrition Security Policy requires a minimum stock of 8,600MT of rice, and considering that Bhutanese individuals consume an average of 0.027 grams of rice per person per day, the current stockpile appears to be in line with the policy’s objectives.

Dorji Tashi emphasised that FCBL already supplies non-basmati white rice to schools and various agencies throughout the country.

India, being the world’s largest exporter of rice, has undertaken this measure even though non-basmati white rice constitutes only about 25 percent of its overall rice exports.

The ban on exports seeks to maintain a stable supply within the nation and alleviate any pressure on domestic prices.